Journalist Karyn Maughan fights back against Jacob Zuma court challenge

22 September 2022 - 11:06 By TANIA BROUGHTON
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Former president Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Former president Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image: via Twitter

News24 journalist Karyn Maughan has lodged papers in the Pietermaritzburg high court seeking an interdict to stop former president Jacob Zuma's “private prosecution” of her on “meritless charges”.

Maughan and lead prosecutor in Zuma’s corruption and fraud trial advocate Billy Downer were summonsed by Zuma last month to appear in the court on October 10, where he intends prosecuting them in relation to allegations that Downer leaked documents to Maughan.

Downer has hit back, denying any wrongdoing, and is demanding Zuma put down a deposit of at least R1m as security for legal fees. It is widely believed Zuma cannot afford this.

Maughan has now also launched pretrial proceedings. She is seeking an order setting aside the summons and putting a stop to the private prosecution.

She says the summons is a “gross abuse of court process”, obtained for ulterior purposes of intimidating and harassing her and preventing her from doing her job and reporting on his arms deal trial.

“There are absolutely no prospects of success,” she says.

“My reporting on Mr Zuma’s trial and other politically charged matters has raised the ire of Mr Zuma and his supporters. I have been repeatedly maligned and threatened, including by members of his family and representatives of the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, for doing my job.”

As an example, she said Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Sambudla-Zuma had posted a tweet referencing journalists being beaten up in Sri Lanka together with a threat: “@KarynMaughan Come Look Here.”

Sambudla-Zuma had also tweeted that she would “look good in orange”.

Maughan said the online abuse was not only calculated to intimidate her but intended to “serve as a threat to journalists in general”.

She said the charges against her were completely baseless. She had obtained the court papers — which are public documents — that she then reported on.

This was at a time when Zuma was applying for a postponement of the criminal trial because he was ill. The medical report, submitted to trial judge Piet Koen in support of the application, was attached to both the state’s and Zuma’s papers.

Judge Koen had subsequently pronounced that it did not contain anything significantly confidential.

Maughan said she had a clear right not to be subject to a private prosecution on meritless charges and an interdict was the only remedy available to ensure “the harm I have already suffered is finally brought to a stop”.

She has asked that her matter be heard on October 10 and should she be successful the judge award punitive costs against Zuma.

Downer’s matter is expected to be heard on the same day.

In his application, he says Zuma has only put down a R90,000 deposit for security for the costs for the trial in which the former president intends to call 23 witnesses and which will take at least 10 court days.

He says the deposit is “negligible” — and has calculated his costs will be R504,000 for senior counsel fees, R450,000 for junior counsel fees, consultation fees of R99,000 and other contingencies R5,000 — about R1,058,000.

The fraud, corruption and money-laundering trial against Zuma and French arms company Thales has been on hold while he has repeatedly attempted to oust Downer from the case, arguing he is biased and prejudiced against him.

His contention that Downer has no “title to prosecute” him has already been dismissed by Koen and the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has refused to grant Zuma leave to appeal.

His latest application is pending before the Constitutional Court, where he is seeking an order compelling the SCA to hear his appeal.

Koen has set October 17 as another “holding date” pending a decision by the Constitutional Court .


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